By Michael Castleman
WebMD Live Events Transcript
Sex. Is it all men think about? That's up for debate, but it's true that the males of the species have a lot on their minds when it comes to the urge to merge. We discussed men's sexual concerns with the man who wrote the book on the subject, Michael Castleman, author of Great Sex.
The opinions expressed herein are the guest's alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.
Moderator: Welcome to WebMD Live, Michael. Can you tell us a little about your book, and what the tantalizing Total-Body Sex part of the title refers to?
Castleman: Yes. That Total-Body Sex subtitle does intrigue people. Great Sex is a heterosexual man's guide to confident lovemaking. It can help men become the skilled confident lovers that they would like to be, and that the women in their lives would like them to be.
The secret that Great Sex shares with everybody is the idea that men get most of their sex education from pornography. I personally am a social liberal; I have no beef against the legality of pornography; I don't think it should be banned; I don't think adult access to porn should be restricted. I have two teenage children at home, a son and a daughter, and I don't lose any sleep over their accessing free pornography imagery on the Internet.
However, I have a big problem with pornography. Basically, it teaches men sex all wrong. It's men's main sex educator and it is a lousy sex educator. Pornography portrays sex as almost entirely genital. Boy meets girl, immediately girl is on her knees sucking him. That is essentially pornographic sex. But if you look at sex research, if you talk to sex therapists, and I interviewed many, many sex therapists for the writing of Great Sex , what you find out is that truly great sex certainly includes the genitals, but is not preoccupied with them as porn is.
Truly great sex involves the whole body, and that's where the line 'total-body sex' comes from: whole body, sensual, massage-oriented touch of the whole body. And when men get into whole body sensual sex two things happen:
1. The woman they're making love with gets a lot happier, because all of the surveys of what women like in bed show that women really prefer leisurely, playful, whole body sensuality.
2. Most of men's sex problems disappear, because if you look at the programs that sex therapists recommend for three main men's sex problems -- coming too soon, erection difficulties, and problems coming at all -- they involve dropping the pornographic all-genital sex style and adopting, guess what? Leisurely, playful, whole body sensuality.
So Great Sex, the book, really presents an opportunity for a win-win situation. If men drop the porn and pick up a bottle of massage oil everybody wins. Women get the sex they love, men's sex problems largely disappear, and men hear something in bed that many men don't hear from women, which is, "Wow, you're good!"
Moderator: There are so many books out there for women about their sexuality, and plenty more for couples. But I haven't seen many directed at men specifically. Do you think there is a false assumption out there that men should just "know" how to be good sexual partners?
Castleman: Yes, there is this false assumption. It is deeply imbedded in our culture. It dates back a century to Victorian times, when it was largely believed, totally incorrectly, that women were incapable of sexual feelings, that women were simply fleshy receptacles for men's lust. And if you believe that women are incapable of sexual feelings, then of course, men need to lead women through sex. But the fact is that women are not only capable of deep and wonderful sexual feelings, women in general have a better intuitive sense than men have about how to make love.
Here I am a guy, and believe me, I am a normal red-blooded, hot-blooded American man, and a college graduate, well read, well informed, or so I thought, and yet back in the early 1970s when I started becoming regularly sexually active, I did not know what the hell I was doing. As a result, I developed a bad case of ejaculating too soon. I was concerned about this problem, but fortunately I was the son of a librarian, so I went to the library. I stumbled upon the original book by Masters and Johnson, the book that basically invented the field of sex therapy, called Human Sexual Inadequacy .
In this book Masters and Johnson detailed their program for curing rapid ejaculation. Their program was couched in all sorts of bizarre medical terminology, but it boiled down to whole-body, massage-oriented playful sex that takes pressure off the penis. The penis loves to be fondled, as every man knows, but the fact is that if all you fondle, or if all the woman fondles, is your penis, it just puts too much pressure on the little guy. Every square inch of the body is amazingly arousable, sensually. Every square inch of the body can get turned on. When men allow for this whole-body turn on, that takes pressure off the penis and you last longer.
Now, in my own case, I had a girlfriend at the time; she is now my wife. I brought this book home, I said, "Would you do this program with me? I want to last longer." She said OK. I was completely cured in two weeks. I couldn't believe it. I mean, rapid ejaculation had really bothered me, and according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association , rapid ejaculation is man's most common sex problem.
With all of the drugs now to treat erection difficulties, people think that erection problems are men's big sex problem. Don't get me wrong, plenty of men have erection difficulties; however, rapid ejaculation is much more prevalent, affecting one-third of all men. If you ask men, "Do you come too soon?" one-third in all age groups says yes.
So it was my own sex problem, back in 1972, that launched me on this career as a sex educator, focused on men. I should hasten to add that I am not a doctor, not a psychologist, not a sex therapist; I'm a medical journalist and I write about health and medicine, defined broadly, and to me that includes sexuality. I wrote Great Sex for men, because I am one, and because men need to understand that their culture has mislead them, that men aren't necessarily the leaders or the orchestrators of great sex, that great sex is much more a partnership with the woman you're with, and that actually, women have a better intuitive sense of how to have great sex than men have.
But of course, when women say that to men, men don't believe them. So here I am telling men what women have been trying to tell them, and I'm telling men to make love more sensually, not just as a favor to women, but because it's in men's own sexual self-interest to engage in nonpornographic, total-body sensual sex, because they'll stop worrying about their penis size, their lover will be a lot happier with them, and they, men, will be a lot happier with themselves.
Member question: This raises my question pretty well, which is how to better initiate sex. I am too much of a nice guy and initiating sex is a problem for me. How can the total-body perspective help me there?
Castleman: It depends on whether or not you are in a long-term relationship.
Member: I'm in a 10-year marriage.
Castleman: There's a whole chapter in Great Sex called, "You Never Want to, You're Insatiable: The Fine Art of Negotiating Desire Differences." In long-term relationships, there is an expected sexual trajectory for a certain period of time known as the hot and heavy period. The two people cannot keep their hands off each other. This lasts, depending on the couple, for six months to two years. After that, one person or both feel less urgency for sex. It is a very rare couple that remains in sexual synch for their whole marriage. Virtually every couple develops desire differences, where one wants sex more than the other.
Desire differences can be a festering sore in a relationship, one that causes tremendous resentment and name-calling. When the man wants sex more he's a sex fiend. And the man does want sex more, in about two-thirds of relationships. In the other one-third, the woman wants sex more, and she gets called a nymphomaniac. First thing I recommend is stop any name-calling. There is no normal God-given amount of sexual desire. If your lover wants sex more than you do, or less than you do, you're both still normal, and what you have is a desire difference that you have to work out in order to live happily together.
Basically you have three choices:
- You can break up over it
- You can be miserable because of it
- You can negotiate a mutual accommodation that lets you both live happily together, more or less
So if you're not going to break up and you don't want to be utterly miserable, there's only one choice, and that is negotiating a compromise sexual frequency.
Now, this raises the myth that the best sex is "spontaneous," that lovers telepathically know that each of them is hot for the other, and fall into each other's arms like a Hollywood movie. This is nonsense. If you ask sex therapists how to resolve desire differences, and I have asked many, many, of them (there is a whole chapter in Great Sex on this subject), they are unanimous that spontaneous sex really only happens early in a relationship and that once the hot and heavy period has cooled, the best sex is scheduled sex. So get out your calendars and schedule sex dates.
What often happens is that one spouse wants to make love once or twice a week and one spouse is perfectly happy making love once or twice a month or less. So you really have to talk about what you both can live with. Most couples negotiate a frequency of like once a week, once every 10 days, something like that, maybe more, maybe less, but something you both can live with. Put it on your calendar. Make it an evening; make it a special time for both of you.
Of course when you suggest it to spouses, neither one likes the idea. The one with more libido says, "I'm not getting as much as I want." The one with less libido says, "What if a sex night shows up and I'm not in the mood?" Sex therapists point out that over a few weeks usually these problems evaporate.
What happens is, the one with the greater libido gets into the rhythm. They know exactly when sex is going to happen, they can relax about it, they are relieved of the groveling that they've been doing, and yes, they're not getting quite as much as they would want in a perfect world, but their world feels a hell of a lot better. Less resentment and better sex.
The person with less libido knows that they no longer have to fend off constant advances. They know that sex will only happen on designated evenings or afternoons or whenever. That's a tremendous relief. What happens is they can get psyched up for it. So this "I'm not in the mood for it" problem is not a lasting problem. And that person is thinking, "Well, I'm doing it a little more than I'd really like to, but it's fine. I don't feel besieged, I don't feel resentful, and because of that, it's easier to get into sex."
So my suggestion for you is you might want to read the chapter on desire difference. I hope it gives you some ideas for how to proceed, because chances are right now you're feeling resentful of your spouse and maybe a little desperate, but you don't have to feel that way if you schedule sex as sex therapists universally recommend.
Now, for someone not in a long-term relationship, the total-body perspective on sex helps frame the experience, because it encourages extended love play before intercourse. So when men take their time, when men slow things down, there's more time for holding hands, hugging, kissing, running your fingers through her hair, and plenty of time to raise issues about contraception and condom use for STD prevention. There's a nice slow pace, kind of like a fine meal at a very fancy restaurant, as opposed to a fast-food burger.
I suggest that you check in with the woman and say, "Is this OK?" Each step, "Is this OK, is this OK?" It takes the typical woman a lot longer than it takes the typical man to get sexually warmed up and ready for things, like taking off her shirt, getting into bed, and having intercourse. The typical man under 40 is ready for intercourse about five minutes into sex; it takes the typical woman at least a half hour. So if you want a turned-on woman in bed with you, slow down. Take the half hour.
It's so ironic to me that hundreds of rock songs talk about 'doing it all night,' and the typical guy only does it for like three minutes, leaving women very disappointed and reaching for their vibrators.
So when approaching sex, it's almost better not to say, "Hey, you want to have sex?" A better approach is simply to be physically close to a woman, very patient, very sensual; don't grab her breasts. Instead, massage the back of her neck, massage her hands, and offer to give her a foot massage. These moves, all part of whole body sensuality, can be wonderful turn-ons for both women and men. And then chances are one move will just flow into the next, and it won't be that difficult to suggest, "Wouldn't we be a little more comfortable in bed?"
Member question: For men who are impotent after prostate cancer surgery. What ways do you suggest for sex without erections and without ejaculate?
Castleman: Excellent question. Many men believe that if a medical problem eliminates the possibility of erection, or if prostate surgery eliminates ejaculation, then sex is over, what's the point, why bother?
Well, the reason to bother is that sex is not over. Sex changes because of medical conditions and not just prostate surgery, but many, many medical conditions force changes in how people make love. But for men there's more to sex than having an erection. And if men get into total-body sensuality, as I advocate in my book, they can, over time, learn to enjoy lovemaking, despite their medical situation.
Let me tell you a little story. There are a few programs in this country that work on the sexuality of paraplegic people. The vast majority of paraplegics are men, because so many people wind up paraplegic as a result of motorcycle accidents, and it's young men, largely, who ride motorcycles. These are young, hot-blooded guys who want to have sex. They go to these programs around the country and the staff tells them, "You can have sex. It will be different, but over time you will enjoy it." The typical response from these men is, "BS, I've got no penis any more; it doesn't work; I'm sexually useless."
The staffs of these programs train the men to appreciate whole-body sensuality. It's a slow process, but it works, and graduates of these programs, and I've interviewed many of them, say it takes a couple of years, two to three years to let go of the idea that erection is necessary for sex. But to a man, every guy I have talked to who comes out of one of these programs says that two or three years down the road they are really enjoying sex again.
Now, for the gentleman who wrote in this question, despite the fact that you've had prostate cancer surgery and despite the fact it often causes nerve damage that interferes with erection (this means that Viagra is probably not going to work very well for you), there are other ways that you can in fact raise an erection if you want one. This involves injecting a drug into the penis itself that produces erection. If you would like to pursue this option, talk to your urologist.
Member question: What advice do you have for single, uninvolved men who are dealing with erectile dysfunction? How can they have a spontaneous sexual encounter if they're worried about not being able to perform?
Castleman: First, get a medical checkup. There may be a medical reason why you are having an erection problem. For example, undiagnosed diabetes is a possibility. So first see a doctor. Second, a great deal of erection difficulties are the result of sexual anxiety; the penis is very sensitive to stress and anxiety. So work to feel less anxious about lovemaking, and more confident of your ability to make love well. This is where your author encourages you to read Great Sex , so that you will feel less anxious and more confident that you know what you're doing in bed.
Beyond that, I would say extended whole-body sensuality really helps. Like I said, the penis is a very sensitive little guy and the penis works better in the context of whole-body sensuality. I would encourage you, when you're with a woman and things start to become sexual, to mention that erection is sometimes a problem for you, and that you hope she won't take it personally. That should also help you relax.
And finally, erection medication is out there, and if you ask your doctor for a prescription, unless you have a medical reason why you can't take Viagra or the other drugs, I'm confident that your doctor will write you a prescription. Then you can do what hundreds of thousands of American men now do, which is take erection medication as a sort of erection insurance program.
Member question: Do any of the enlargement pills advertised on the web actually work, and will they permanently increase your size?
Castleman: NO, NO, NO, NO! First, let me tell you about my own penis. Like yours, it is a little too small. Now, I have been a sex educator for 30 years, and I know that 99.9 percent of women don't care about men's size. But I care about it, and I wish I were bigger. I mean an extra inch couldn't hurt. Men's obsession with penis size is yet another way that men get screwed by pornography. Porn actors are not chosen for their acting ability; they are cast because they have freakishly large penises.
Now, if you are a heterosexual man the only erections you ever see, other than your own, are the ones in pornography. And every one of them is considerably larger than yours. So a typical man, who sees pornography is completely justified in believing that he has the smallest penis he's ever seen, because it's true.
Men also believe that intercourse is what gives women sexual pleasure, and so it stands to reason that a bigger penis would give more pleasure. Wrong. Very wrong. Intercourse gives men tremendous pleasure, and most women enjoy it too. But the main organ of women's sexual pleasure is not the vagina, but the clitoris, which sits outside of it and above it, under the place where the vaginal lips meet. Most women are much more appreciative of a man who knows how to use his tongue well than a guy with a big penis who thinks that cramming that sucker into her is all there is to sex.
As a sex educator, I answer sex questions. I used to be the Playboy advisor and I answered all the questions that came into Playboy for five years. I answered all the questions on WebMD on the Sex Matters message board when Dr. Weston was on maternity leave. And for the last seven years I have answered all of the sex questions submitted to xandria.com, a company that markets sex toys. In all that time, I must have answered 10,000 sex questions. Not once has a woman ever written in saying, "My guy's penis is too small; I wish it were bigger." Not one woman has ever said this. Several women have written in saying, "My guy is too big and I'm afraid he's going to hurt me with it." Hundreds of women have written in saying, "My guy's penis is perfectly fine; why is he so obsessed with this nonsense that he's too small?"
None of the products that you see advertised on the Internet for penis enlargements work. None of them. You cannot increase the size of your penis with pills, exercises, hanging weights from your penis, none of it. But I can tell you the secret to making the most of what the good Lord gave you. No matter whether it's flaccid or erect, the size of your penis depends on the amount of blood contained in the organ. So if you want to be as large as you possibly can be, you want to make sure that all the blood can get in there.
So the first thing you need to do is not smoke cigarettes. I think we could probably eradicate smoking in this country among men if the government bought billboards that said Your Penis Shrinks With Every Puff. This is medically true. Smoking accelerates the narrowing of arteries, which is why smoking is a major risk factor for heart attack. Smoking also narrows the two arteries that carry blood into the penis. So the more you smoke, the less blood gets into your penis, and the smaller you look. So first and foremost, don't smoke.
Secondly, relax about this. Most men notice that in a cold locker room their penises shrivel up, but when they step into a hot shower, they look a lot better hung. That's because the hot water of a shower is relaxing. When men relax, the arteries that carry blood into the penis also relax; they open up and more blood flows into the organ. So the irony of men's anxiety about penis size is the more you worry about it, the smaller it gets.
Finally, if you're overweight, lose weight. What happens when men get a big gut, also known as a beer belly, is that a pad of fat develops in the lower abdomen and tends to cover the base of the penis. So your penis doesn't shrink, but it does look smaller. If you want to look bigger, lose the beer belly.
So my advice to men is stop worrying about penis size. Your penis is fine. I have interviewed many urologists, doctors who spend day in and day out looking at men's penises. I asked them about size. They all tell me that maybe 2% to 3% of men are noticeably larger than average, two to three men are noticeably smaller, and that 95% of men are about average. I'm about average. I'm sure you're about average.
I can't go into every detail here in the chat, but there is an exhaustive section in my book about penis size. It is men's No. 1 sexual anxiety and it is so sad that guys waste their time and their money on these worthless penis enlargement products. As far as I'm concerned, all these products should be banned. Where is the Food and Drug Administration when you need them?
Moderator: Thanks to Michael Castleman for sharing his expertise with us. For more information, please read Great Sex: A Man's Guide to the Secret Principles of Total-Body Sex . (Michael says it's at Amazon right now for 30% off. It's easiest to find by searching on his last name.)